Embracing a School-Wide Explorer’s Mindset is More Important Than Ever

This blog post was written by educator Ashleigh Glickley.

I am an educator at Hawthorne Elementary School in Louisville, Kentucky. Our school is home to a whole-school Spanish Immersion Program with the vision “every student will develop into a globally and culturally competent learner” and we take this vision to heart. So much so that not only do we view our students’ learning through a global lens, but we also apply this perspective to our own journey as educators as well. We spend time as a community exploring our own curiosities and asking driving questions that push us all forward.

We often ask ourselves questions that build and support an Explorer’s Mindset for all of us, and we spend time in dialogue together exploring how our own views of the world influence our students’ curiosity, sense of responsibility to others, and perceptions of personal empowerment to lead change. Because this past school year marked challenges and opportunities for growth like never before, these kinds of questions and conversations are more prominent than ever. We are embracing a school-wide Explorer’s Mindset as we reflect on the past year and plan for the horizon ahead. 

Here three teachers from our school explore their adventures personally and professionally, as well as how thinking like an Explorer has and will continue to impact their students and the school community.

Argelia Rodriguez

Ser un buen observador ,altamente curioso y responsable son para mi las principales actitudes de un explorador.Un explorador debe estar deseoso de nuevas experiences, dispuesto a descubrir ,innovar y enfrentarse a nuevos retos.Debe ser un trabajador en equipo,disciplinado y comprometido.Como maestro y explorador mi curiosidad entre otras se basa en la cultura.Me gusta conocer y comprender a personas de diferentes orígenes culturales , quiero saber como piensan , comunican y se comportan ,para así poder aprender y empatizar con las diferentes formas de vivir sin juzgar.Mi objetivo es transmitirle esto a mis alumnos para crear ciudadanos empáticos.

Being a good observer, highly curious and responsible are the primary attitudes of an explorer to me.  An explorer must desire new experiences, be open to discover and innovate, and face new challenges.  An explorer must be a team player, disciplined and engaged.  As a teacher and explorer my curiosity is based in culture. I like to meet and understand people from different cultures. I want to know how they think, communicate and act to be able to learn and empathize with different ways of living without judgement. My objective is to transmit these ideas to my students and to develop empathetic citizens.

El año pasado ha sido un año particularmente lleno de experiencias,emociones y aprendizaje en todos los aspectos.Hubo una interacción constante con lo desconocido.Como un explorador Mindset desarrolle mas mi mentalidad aventurera, viaje virtualmente a diferentes lugares ,así comprendí como cada lugar visitado enfrentó la nueva situación mundial según sus raíces culturales.Cada lugar que explore fue una experiencia diferente y una oportunidad de aprendizaje.Estas experiencias fue llevada a mi salon de clases para crear conciencia ,amor y respeto hacia la diversidad.

The past year has been particularly full of experiences, emotions and learning in every aspect. It was a constant interaction with the unknown. With an Explorer’s Mindset, I further developed my adventurous mentality. I traveled virtually to different places and through this I understood how each place faced the new global situation based on their cultural roots. Every place that I explored was a different experience and opportunity to learn. These experiences were carried into my classroom to create an understanding, love and respect for diversity.

Enseñar es un papel exigente que requiere muchas exigencias ,no solo es instruir,debo cultivar amor,crear conciencia respeto hacia las diferencias. Debo crear mentes creativas ,responsables. Ese fue mi trabajo como explorador el año pasado pasado transferir mis experiencias, mi visión sobre el nuevo reto mundial.

Teaching is a demanding role with lots of requirements; it is not just instructing, and we must cultivate love and develop consciousness in respect to everyone’s differences. I must build creative and responsible minds. This was my job as an explorer the past year, to transfer my experiences, my vision of the new global challenge.

La exploración y conocimiento acerca de cómo según sus culturas, diferentes países y lugares desarrollaron variadas estrategias para enfrentar la nueva situación mundial desarrollo en mi más conciencia y respeto. Mi creatividad se renovó y mi compasión llegó a un nivel superior.Le transmite a mis alumnos como conociendo diferentes formas de pensar y vivir se nos hace más fácil entender y resolver diferentes situaciones.

The exploration and understanding of how different countries and places, based on their cultures, developed different strategies to confront the new global situation developed for me more consciousness and respect. My creativity was renewed and my compassion reached a higher level. I transmitted these ideas to my students how knowing different ways of thinking and living makes it easier for us to understand and solve different situations.

El conocimiento que obtengo siendo un explorador se ha formado en mi aceptación hacia lo diferente y curiosidad hacia lo desconocido. He modificado mi actitud individual para lograr cambios colectivos y he utilizado el legado de exploradores anteriores para enfocar el mio.

The understanding that I obtain being an explorer has formed my acceptance towards what is different and a curiosity about the unknown. I have changed my attitude to achieve collective changes and I have utilized the understanding of previous explorers to focus my own understanding. 

El año pasado estuvo cargado de experiencias ,desarrollo más conciencia y respeto hacia las diferentes culturas y tuve la oportunidad de transmitirlo a todas las personas cercanas a mi. Comprendí nuestra labor y compromiso con todo lo que nos rodea y nuestro rol como ser humano para mejorarlo.

The past year was full of experiences, I developed more understanding and respect towards different cultures and I had the opportunity to transmit that to other people close to me. I learned that our work and commitment to everything around us and our role as humans to make it better.

Argelia exploring the Mississippi River.

James Henry

Ever since I can remember, I have been fascinated by different cultures. Cultural traditions, storytelling, rituals, and everyday practices are vital to the existence of civilization. As an explorer, I deeply enjoy researching the traditions of a given culture with the ambition of one day experiencing these traditions first-hand.

While I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Ecuador, I had the privilege of learning about Ecuadorian customs and traditions by visiting a practitioner of spiritual medicine called a “Yachak”, sharing laughs and stories with villagers, and giving charlas (“chats”) about sexual and reproductive health to students. Even then, I had only scratched the surface of the deep and complex makeup of Ecuadorian culture, and since then, I have wanted to explore even more.

The past year has presented new and unique challenges to educators. What was once assured and certain became unsure and a little unpredictable. I had to ask myself things like, “What will my virtual classroom procedures look like?”, “How will I instruct and assess my students in the online setting?”, and “What do I want my students to be doing outside of class meetings and how do I reinforce learning when I can’t see them?”

Exploring is about planning a journey, anticipating challenges, and taking risks to achieve something that makes it all worthwhile. This year forced me to do all of those things. Were there hiccups along the way? You bet. But through the process I allowed myself to be vulnerable and opened myself to feedback so that I could learn from it and grow. I think I owe that to my students who look up to me as their teacher.

Having an Explorer’s Mindset also means being willing to set aside pride and ego, thereby allowing yourself and your crew of fellow explorers to uncover the truth. Being honest with ourselves and others will give all of us the opportunity for personal growth that we need to improve ourselves. That is how an explorer moves forward! When working with a team, I try to understand the skills and passions of my teammates and create an atmosphere of teamwork and cooperation founded on common goals and camaraderie. As one half of a two-person teacher team, I seek to know my partner teacher better by asking questions about who they are and what they want to accomplish, then listening to them share more about themselves, I can understand what their passion is and use that knowledge to generate creative solutions to enhance our students’ education. This is my way of being an effective communicator and, by extension, an explorer!

Explorers also need a wide range of skills and vast knowledge of multiple fields to clearly understand and explain situations so that they may find a solution. This year, I have learned how to find and incorporate resources into my instruction that will allow me to differentiate my instruction for all my students, making learning accessible by everybody. I have become more communicative as well, being clear and concise to explain my points to the class. As a teacher, knowing what you are doing isn’t enough; you must be able to see the world through the lens of a 8 or 9-year-old student to inform how you will bridge lessons to prior learning, or create an anticipatory set that will draw the student in closer and make them want to find out more. In my opinion, the thirst for knowledge is what exploration and teaching are all about!

As I have been shaped by my life’s experiences and grown from them, I have come to find that our actions today will have a real impact on the outcomes we see tomorrow. The actions our ancestors took have shaped what our world is like today. The actions that we make shape the future. Whatever you believe is most important, for me, it is natural preservation, is not guaranteed to still be there when you’re gone. Whether you raise awareness, educate people, or take some other form of positive action, you can do something to help ensure that what is important to you is taken care of for future generations to enjoy.

Being a first year teacher in the midst of a global pandemic was an eye-opener for me because I didn’t fully understand what it means to be a leader in the community or a key role model for your students until I adopted that role. Since then, I have learned what it really means to be the example you want your students to follow. Teaching requires you to be aware of the example you are setting at all times no matter what is happening at a given moment. I think it is so important that teachers never forget their “why” because it will help us reach our common goal: guiding our students’ development and helping them successfully reach their goals.

James with his mother and Amigo, Jonathan Torres.

Maggie Pool

My father is an archaeologist, and my mom works for the Kentucky Humanities Council and both instilled in me at a young age the importance of curiosity. Their jobs allowed us to travel and explore the world and people around us. Curiosity is important, questioning why things are the way they are and how they came to be is what helps us make sense of our world. Children are naturally curious, and my parents fostered this curiosity every step of the way. I remember being encouraged to play outside and climb trees. Using a magnifying glass to observe the bugs in our garden. My parents also taught me that my curiosity should lead to leaving my world better than the way I found it. Trying to understand the natural world, in order to protect it.

This past year has allowed me to embrace an Explorer’s Mindset more fully by fostering the same curiosity I had as a child, challenging me to find creative solutions to my student’s problems. I have had to ask new questions and find solutions to our virtual world, to try technologies and activities which challenge my students in ways I never would have thought of before, and to reignite my life’s dedication to learning the Spanish language and many cultures who speak it. Much like my students I grew up in a Spanish Immersion program beginning in Kindergarten. However, I have learned through being bilingual, communication is so much more than learning a language. I have been in situations where I couldn’t communicate effectively, and it taught me communication is just as much about sharing a smile or holding a hand. This past year has allowed me to embrace communication more fully as part of an Explorer’s Mindset as I had to rely on technology for almost all of my communication with my students and their families. So many things can be lost in translation when you can’t see the concern in someone’s face or hear the sincerity in their voice. This past year has allowed me to be creative in how I communicate love and support for my students in new ways like sending letters and celebrations to students’ homes or staying on video calls longer with students so they can share and build their own communication skills with me.

As a brand new educator, I have really understood this year the perspective I offer. Whether you call me a Millennial, Gen Z, or Zillennial one thing is for sure, my generation embodies the Explorer’s Mindset. Our world is ever changing and becoming more and more connected. Those of us born on the cusp of the new millennia have been challenged our whole life with being flexible and adapting to change. I know what floppy discs are and I know how to save documents on a laptop. I know what ABC testing was and was the first generation to experience T9 testing. I know what a pound sign is, and I can fluently use hashtags. I embrace each new update because I admire the lengths technology has changed just within my own lifetime. This past year has allowed me to grow by challenging my understanding of technology. Our world is more connected than it has ever been, but the gap between those with access and those without has become more evident. Our planet is changing, and technology is going to help bring us to the other side. This year has taught me that while technology can save us, It can also divide us. We can’t allow people to be left behind because of unequal access to technology. In order to fully embrace the Explorer’s Mindset, we need to be intentional in ensuring our human journey continues with everyone. It is my goal that not a single student is left behind because of a lack of access or support.

Maggie dancing with her father in his archaeology lab.

As my colleagues and I fully embrace an Explorer’s Mindset in our work as educators, our school plans to expand our vision and amplify our collective work as explorers. This summer our staff will all enroll in the 1 hour virtual course, Developing a National Geographic Explorer Mindset with Your Learners and build our 2021-2022 school year from what we learn. Our hope is that our path leads others toward their own journeys too. 

Lead Photo by Stephanie Grocke.

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